NEW DELHI -- Capping a day and night of rapid developments in the Yakub Memon case, the Supreme Court rejected Yakub Memon's last-minute plea at 5 am on Thursday, just two hours before the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict is scheduled to be executed in the Nagpur central jail.
"We don't think in a case of this nature, granting further time is necessary," said Justice Dipak Misra on early Thursday morning, immediately after the final order was read out in court.
The three-judge bench of the apex court ruled that Memon's brother's plea, which was rejected in April, couldn't be considered separate from the mercy plea filed by Memon which was rejected late Wednesday night by President Pranab Mukherjee. Memon's lawyer's had asked for a 14-days stay on his execution, based on a recent SC judgment that requires such a gap must be given after rejecting the mercy plea of a death row convict before he is executed. This is to allow the convict to mentally prepare himself for his execution and meet with family.
However, the court ruled that ample time had been given to Memon earlier to present his case.
"I believe the Supreme Court has made a tragic mistake," said senior advocate Anand Grover, who appeared on behalf of Memon in the special hearing. "I have exhausted my legal remedies. I hope Yakub Memon has a dignified death," he added.
This unprecedented early morning hearing was underway in the Supreme Court from 3.20 am on Thursday, as death row convict Yakub Memon's lawyers desperately tried to stay his execution in a last-minute bid. His hanging is scheduled to go ahead for 7 am today, or in a couple of hours. Late Wednesday night, a police constable had handed over a confidential letter to Memon's family in Nagpur. The 1993 blasts case convict is housed in the Nagpur Central Jail.
Court number 4 in the SC on late Wednesday night became a battleground for powerful arguments from both sides in the case.
A battery of lawyers including Prashant Bhushan and Indira Jaising had sought a 14-day stay on Memon's execution on the ground that the rules of Maharashtra jail manual does not allow death penalty to be carried out immediately after the rejection of the mercy plea by the President, a decision that came through earlier on Wednesday evening.
The prosecution, represented by attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, argued that his mercy petition had been rejected previously and Wednesday's rejection cannot be seen as the time from which the countdown must begin.
Memon's lawyers argued that the convict should be given 14 days to challenge the President's rejection of his mercy plea. They contended that this period should be counted from Wednesday, when the mercy plea filed by him was rejected, and not from April, when a plea on his behalf by his brother had been rejected.
The lawyers also referred to the Maharashtra jail manual, which allowed death row convicts a gap of seven day between rejection and execution, during which time they can prepare their Will.
However attorney general Rohatgi was in no mood to relent, accusing the defence of "abusing" the system of mercy petition, and not allowing the Executive to act.
Petitioner's idea is to delay the execution by 4-5 years on death row & then seek commutation alleging inordinate delay: AG #YakubMemon— ANI (@ANI_news) July 29, 2015
Even as the timing for the rejection of Memon's mercy petition became the main bone of contention — with the prosecution arguing that his brother's plea and Memon's own were the same, and the defence claiming they could not conflate the two pleas — Justice Dipak Misra's comments before the final order was revealed already indicated that it would go in the prosecution's favour.
Even as the order was being dictated, Justice Misra claimed that the defence had made similar prayers in the mercy petition that was ultimately disposed off on Wednesday, and held the view that Memon's execution warrant was communicated to him on 13 July. Pointing out that Memon himself had never disowned the mercy petition filed by his brother on his behalf, Justice Misra said that the death row convict had in the past had ample opportunity to present his case.
SC notes that AG pleads that new facts will be added at the drop of the hat & Pres. will be asked again & again.— ANI (@ANI_news) July 29, 2015
President Rejected Plea Earlier
Earlier on Wednesday night, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected a fresh mercy petition filed by Memon on Wednesday night.
According to multiple reports, Mukherjee rejected the plea late Wednesday night after referring the matter first to the Ministry of Home Affairs earlier today. Home Minister Rajnath Singh later called the President conveying the government's view that the mercy petition should be rejected.
Singh is believed to have come to the decision after meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Singh and top officials, including Home Secretary L C Goyal at the PM's residence earlier on Wednesday evening. The President acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
Law Secretary P K Malhotra too had held discussions on the issue with the Home Secretary earlier today. Rashtrapati Bhavan is yet to make its decision public, even as Memon's execution is scheduled hours away.
Memon is supposed to be hanged at Nagpur jail after the Supreme Court dismissed his petition against the death warrant on the ground that it was issued before his curative plea was heard by the court.
(with agency inputs)